The Cartouche at Baalbek
THE CARTOUCHE AT BAALBEK
The email that Jessie had sent us to look at, was a picture that had been taken by a photographer friend of hers, but the amazing thing was, this picture had been taken at night, and showed a young woman sitting in front of the temple, or to be more precise, sitting at the corner of one of the trilithon stones. The man who had taken the photo, had set up is camera on a tripod, and was using high resolute equipment for night shooting of the temple, the last picture he took was of his girlfriend sitting on a rock. This picture was a close up of the woman, which when taken, highlighted the stone behind her, and what it showed, was what looked like, an Egyptian hieroglyph imprinted into the stone behind her.
When Helen and I arrived at the temple in Baalbek, we were like a pair of children at Christmas who couldn’t wait to see what Santa had brought them, yes you could say we were excited!
The temple at Baalbek, which is situated in the Beqaa valley in Lebanon, close to the Syrian border, is not quite what it seems.
There has always been a consensus in the archaeological world that the foundation on which the temple sits, is not Roman. It is Widley accepted that the Romans built their temple upon an existing monument, which suggests that the huge trilithon stones were already in place.
The other remarkable thing about the stones is how much they weigh. It is estimated that each stone weighs in the region of about eight hundred tonnes, which makes it the largest ever stone construction in recorded history. These stones could never have been placed at Baalbek by human strength alone, fact. It would seem we had another enigma to rival the great pyramid.
After waiting for night-time to fall, me, Helen, and our camera man, set up his high resolute equipment, so we could study the carving that had been found etched into the foundation stone of the temple. And as we focused on the area in question, the image slowly revealed itself, and we were both absolutely astonished at what we were looking at. There in front of us, was, what looked like, some kind of cartouche. Although most of the carving was missing, there was just enough of it left to make out one word. MISH-PA-KHA. (My FAMILY).
As we both stood there knowing what this word meant, Helen made an observation, which like the last one she made whilst standing in the great pyramid, knocked me for six.
“Do you know Frank? if I wanted to hide something, I would bury it, and then put an eight hundred tonne stone on top of it, so no one would ever find it”.
And as we stood there looking at this ginormous stone, which to be fair, no one on earth could possibly move, not even today, the proverbial light bulb went off, we needed to know what, if anything, lay beneath the temple at Baalbek. Again, a simple comment from Helen, spoken in jest, could have monumental consequences on our understanding of the past.
Returning to our hotel that evening, we poured ourselves a drink, sat down, and just looked at each other.
“How on gods earth are we ever going to get permission to excavate on what is probably the oldest Roman site in the world”? I say out loud, as I speak into my whisky glass.
There was a long silence that came over the room, and then Helen uttered one word.
Although I was onto her immediately, I asked her what she had said.
“What was that you said Helen?
“What’s the one thing that if found, will invite the area to be dug up?
“Are you suggesting what I think your suggesting? I said, even though I knew what exactly she was suggesting.
“It’s the only way we are ever going to get boots and spades on that site Frank, and I for one think it’s worth the gamble, what do you think? She said, looking me straight in the eye. Helen knew what my answer would be, she didn’t need to hear it.
For professional academics, who lived and breathed the rule book. Everything we thought we stood for, seemed to fade into obscurity. But if we were to allow the mainstream academia to dictate any of what me and Helen had discovered, it would have been buried, and we just couldn’t allow that to happen, we were on our own.
With every possible law and regulation you could think of protecting the site at Baalbek, I just couldn’t see how we were ever going to be allowed to dig there, and then Helen made a comment. With a book in one hand, a glass of wine in the other, and her glasses teetering on the end of her nose, she said.
“I bet the bloody rabbits even need a licence to dig there” She whispered into her wine glass.
“That’s it Helen, they can’t stop an animal digging around the site, and who’s to say that some kind of wild animal didn’t dig up a piece of human remains. It just needs to be us that finds it once it as happened” I said jumping from my chair.
“Frank that’s it, what a great idea, and I know just the person who can help us”. Throwing her book to the floor, and drinking the last remnants of her wine, and with that dogged look I had come to recognise!
The idea Helen had come with was brilliant. And it involved a police search and rescue dog, that was trained in searching for long lost human remains. All she needed to do now, was convince her son to take a holiday to Baalbek, and bring along his dog for the ride.
From the inception, and the dog finding human remains at the temple in Baalbek, only four months had passed. And within six months, Helen had arranged an archaeological dig, something I thought would be virtually impossible, and yet here we were.
The last thing on our minds at that time was to do any digging, our aim was to use highly advanced technology in the form of, (GPR) ground penetrating radar. This would allow us to see up to five meters below the surface without us having to touch the ground in any way, but all done on the pretence of looking for human remains.
With our team in place, the machine was turned on and slowly pulled along the side of the temple. When it had completed its first run, the data was checked, and there, under where the cartouche had been found, the GPR was clearly showing a void at about twelve feet under where we were standing.
Considering this site at Baalbek was as much of an enigma as the great pyramid of Giza, the thought of finding something under the Trilithon stones would set the archaeological world ablaze.
With the site now cordoned off from prying eyes, we slowly started to excavate down. And within just a few feet, what appeared to be, a stone slab came into view. Now with every care taken, we methodically moved every scrap of dirt from around it by brush, and after what seemed like an age, the stone slab revealed itself. The slab looked to be about five-foot square, and after we had exposed all four sides, we were ready to lift and remove it. And what it revealed was amazing.
As me and Helen stood there, with our team around us, what we were looking at was the beginning of a stone staircase. Although filled with rubble, the steps certainly led down below the foundation of the temple, and on further inspection, we could see that at one time, the steps carried on up to the top of the trilithon stones.
Now with extra men on site to help remove the rubble away from what could be the find of the century, we had decided to make camp right there in front of the dig. Whatever, and wherever, these steps lead, neither of us were going nowhere.
Whilst the rubble was being removed, we spent time looking at where the steps would have eventually linked to the top of foundation stones. And after making the arduous journey around the grounds to gain access to the temple, we eventually made it to where we thought the staircase would have originally began its descent. On closer inspection, there wasn’t any obvious signs that there had ever been a staircase descending from that point, but like everything else at Baalbek, nothing makes sense. Another striking enigma at Baalbek, is the doorway that goes nowhere. The same phenomenon can also be found at, Angkor wat, and Tiwanaku. And the one thing that brings all these sites together, including the great pyramid, is the high technology that seems to have been used to build them.
After a full week had passed digging the rubble away from the stairwell, we finally reached the bottom, which seemed to be at a depth of about thirty feet. And to our amazement, etched into the side of the foundation wall, was the outline of a doorway. Again, a doorway which led nowhere. As we stood there scratching our heads, I remembered the pyramid. METAMORPHIC DISPLACEMENT.